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NHL Offseason Caterwaul: Florida Panthers Monday Open Forum

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THN predicts Cats protection scheme for 2021 Expansion Draft

Barkov looks like latest in South Florida line of greats lost on nothing teams Charles Trainor Jr./Miami Herald/TNS via Getty Images

The Hockey News has been running way too early articles on the 2021 Expansion Draft and over the weekend, they got to the Florida Panthers. These articles are kind of asinine this far out in my opinion, but the piece exists, so let’s take a look at what THN came up with. One thing they did get right was that the Cats were one of, if not the team that handled the 2017 Expansion Draft the worst. It looks like THN is projecting the Panthers will re-sign Evgenii Dadonov to a new deal, but not Mike Hoffman.

THN PROTECTED (7F, 3D, 1G)

Forwards:

  • Jonathan Huberdeau (NMC)
  • Aleksander Barkov
  • Vincent Trocheck
  • Evgeni Dadonov
  • Noel Acciari
  • Henrik Borgstrom
  • Denis Malgin

Defensemen:

  • Keith Yandle (NMC)
  • Aaron Ekblad
  • Michael Matheson

Goaltenders:

  • Sergei Bobrovsky (NMC)

NOTABLE EXPOSURES: Brett Connolly, Frank Vatrano, Anton Stralman, Sam Montembeault

STRATEGY: The Panthers must protect Huberdeau, Barkov and Trocheck, and that has nothing at all to do with Huberdeau’s no-movement clause. Those are the faces of the franchise and the offensive drivers. And after that, it becomes about keeping pieces of the offense intact. Dadonov has been excellent since his return to the NHL, Borgstrom has serious upside and Malgin has more to give. Defensively, the protection looks much the same, but this time with Matheson protected and a limit of three. Bobrovsky’s NMC means he stays.

The Cats will benefit from two things heading into the next round of expansion, too. First, notable prospects Grigori Denisenko, Owen Tippett and Aleksi Heponiemi won’t be eligible. And second, the core is all locked up through the draft at reasonable prices, which leaves money to re-sign Dadonov. Then, if money needs to be shed, a decision can be made regarding Matheson, who is at nearly $5-million per season for the foreseeable future. Chances are he’s a lock to stay and others – Connolly, Stralman, Vatrano – will be available as ways for Florida to potentially shed salary.

THE NO BRAINER: Enough has been said about keeping Huberdeau, Barkov and Trocheck in town, so let’s make a note here about using one of the protections on Borgstrom. He split his season between the AHL and the NHL last season and he looks primed to take a significant step forward next season. If he develops the way most expect, he could be a top-six fixture in two seasons’ time.

THE TOUGH DECISION: Connolly has upside and plenty of it, but eventually, something is going to have to give, particularly if Dadonov is re-signed. And even if Connolly is a consistent 20-goal player, does it not make sense to free up some cap dollars by shedding his $3.5-million contract? There may be a young player who can fill his role by the time Seattle is ready to step into the league.

LESSON LEARNED: Is there any way Tallon makes a pre-draft trade to protect a player? He can’t, can he? After the way that went last time, he has to take his chances with whoever he exposes, lest he walk into another situation where his attempt to persuade the expansion franchise one way or another blows up in his face.

LBC’s TAKE:I’d say THN got most of this right, which wasn’t difficult, although in my opinion, Denis Malgin needs to prove a lot more to get himself in the group of forwards being protected. As of today, I think I’d protect Frank Vatrano over Malgin, and over Noel Acciari for that matter. The same goes for Mike Matheson in regards to proving it. After a disastrous 2018-19 campaign, if he doesn’t improve over the next two seasons, the expansion draft might be the perfect way to ditch the remaining five years of his contract. So, I wouldn’t necessarily put him into the “lock” category. That said, the organization still seems very high on him. You could also consider exposing Aaron Ekblad, who makes a lot more money than Matheson and will have four years left on his bloated contract come June 2021. If one or both of those two defensemen aren’t playing up to or near their contract value, the Cats might be better off protecting another blue-liner, even if it’s Anton Stralman, who will only have one year left at $5.5 million, and seeing if Seattle will bite on Matheson or Ekblad. I hate doing this kind of thing, but looking at the Panthers and the Seattle expansion draft, I think the Cats are most likely to lose Sam Montembeault, or perhaps a forward like Connolly or Vatrano, depending on the state of the roster... two years from now!

Hockey Headlines

The Buffalo Sabres have re-signed goalie Linus Ullmark to a one-year contract worth $1.325 million. Ullmark and the Sabres came to an agreement was reached after the two sides went to arbitration on Friday, but before the arbitrator made a ruling. (WGR 550)

The Sabres also re-signed defenseman Jake McCabe to a two-year deal worth $5.7 million avoiding an arbitration hearing scheduled for Sunday. In 59 games with the Sabres last season, McCabe produced four goals and 14 points. (Die By The Blade)

The Arizona Coyotes have completed re-signing their remaining restricted free agents after goaltender Adin Hill accepted his qualifying offer. Hill’s new one-year contract pays $708,750 at the NHL level and carries a minor-league salary of $70,000. (Five For Howling)

With no news of new contracts, it looks like Anton Forsberg (Carolina Hurricanes), Rocco Grimaldi (Nashville Predators) and Joel Edmundson (St. Louis Blues) went through with their arbitration hearings yesterday. They are the only players left of the 40 who filed for arbitration that remain unsigned.